It’s well known that high-achieving students tend to gravitate toward courses with high ATAR requirements. But when looking at graduate outcomes, such as employment or a high starting salary, these courses don’t necessarily deliver the best outcomes — at least not straight away.
Recent insight from The Good Universities Guide shows that much of what students know about salaries and employability at graduation is guided by belief, rather than facts and figures. Students habitually choose courses with the highest entry requirement they can access with their ATAR. In theory, the higher the ATAR, the better the course, and the better the employment outcome.
In 2020–2021, a degree in Social Work had an average ATAR requirement of 71, making it relatively accessible. However, the median starting salary for graduates of Social Work was among the highest of all fields of study — $65,400*. In contrast, the average ATAR cut-off for Law students is 87, and the median graduate starting salary is $62,000.
While it’s more than likely that Law graduates will eventually see higher earnings than Social Work graduates, Law students earn less at graduation — and this is also true for many fields with high entry requirements.
Another example: The average ATAR for Teaching is 70 compared to 80 for Engineering, yet students from both fields have the same employment rate of (87%) at graduation.
While the above examples provide a general insight, The Good Universities Guide has found many universities that outperform the national average for employment outcomes in specific fields of study — many of which require a lower-than-average ATAR score.
If you’d like to access our full comparison of ATARs and employment outcomes, you can visit our dashboard here.
* Salary and employment data have been sourced from pooled results of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey